Mount Carmel garage has no links to Edison
MOUNT CARMEL - The borough garage slated for demolition is not historically important to Mount Carmel, according to Magisterial District Judge Hugh A. Jones, Mount Carmel.
The judge, solicitor for the Northumberland County Historical Society and a historian who wrote "Edison's Experiment in Northumberland County" in 1995, was asked to address whether the borough garage was part of Thomas Edison's original plant.
"Is there anything really historic about it? No," Jones said. "It's just a cinder block building that was once a power plant."
At Thursday night's public meeting, borough council awarded a contract to demolish the borough garage at Oak and Seventh streets to Rutledge Excavating, Tyler Hill, for $21,440.
The borough garage is beyond repair, according to Mike Brinkash, of Brinkash & Associates, Ashland, after two unofficial inspections of the building.
Once located at the current site of the borough garage, the Edison Electric Illumination Company of Mount Carmel, the first of its kind in the world, was an independently-owned corporation contracted by Edison that sold their building and property to PPL in 1920.
It was an Edison franchise with all local stockholders, Jones said.
In studying the Edison archives in New Jersey, Jones said no tangible proof, such as letters or other documents, could be found indicating Edison ever traveled to Mount Carmel or even set foot on the property where the borough garage currently stands.
"We always felt that he had been (in Mount Carmel), but there were no smoking guns," Jones said.
When Edison negotiated the contracts for the electric company, the independent corporation owners went to New York City to meet with him, not the other way around, he said.
According to explorepahistory.com, "Working with P.B. Shaw of Williamsport, Edison quickly licensed electric companies with other Pennsylvania towns located in and near the state's large anthracite fields, including Mount Carmel, Ashland, Catasauqua, Harrisburg, Tamaqua, Hazleton, Lancaster, Pottsville, Easton, Williamsport and Bellefonte."
Though Sunbury's Hotel Edison is considered the earliest hotel to be illuminated by electric light, Mount Carmel is the first municipality to have its streets lit with electricity.
The original Edison plant was built on the site of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at Fourth and Maple streets in 1883, and the first demonstration of light in Mount Carmel was 1884, Jones said.
If Edison had ever stepped foot in the borough, it would have been at the Fourth and Maple streets property, he said.
When it was being erected, Edison's representatives are known to have stayed at the former National Hotel at the corner of Oak and Second streets.
Purchased last year by Vince Guarna, owner of Tri-City Development Co., for $3,000, the former hotel is now in the process of being torn down.
The borough property where the garage currently stands hosted the second Edison plant constructed of wood in 1890, but Jones likened it to "an industrial shed."
The current stone building was built in 1910, he noted.
By 1917, the plant had a capacity to illuminate 200,000 lightbulbs, he said.
It served as an electric generating plant for the borough, the township, Marion Heights and Kulpmont until 1920 when the property was sold to PPL.
Their crews dismantled the original dynamos in 1923, Jones said.
Sometime in the 1920s and 1930s, the borough purchased the property and used the building as a garage, Jones said.